Friday, December 5, 2014

Nurse the Hate: Hate Kent OH

I will be playing a show in Kent tonight, making this the first time I have returned to the university area in years.  I always feel a sense of irritation when I see the “little kids” that go to school there now in “my” bars.  How dare these children swagger around on these streets where I cut my teeth?  Those ungrateful sons of bitches…  Have they any idea of how much cooler my friends and I were then they are?  The amazing ability of a college town to remain frozen in time and scrub the memories of those that have passed before it is remarkable.  Like the current batch of students that inhabit the area now are convinced this is their own personal playground which has been constructed just for them, I was sure of the same thing and am now just an intruder.

The interesting thing is that I don’t feel different than when I lived there.  I am essentially the same person, much to the chagrin of many that had hoped I would ‘grow up” over the resulting years.  Above the venue where I am playing is where I sold magazine subscription renewals over the phone.  I used to change my name depending on what the magazine was, “Paul” for Catholic Digest and “Rusty” for Field and Stream.  When I discovered I could make more money selling magazines in four hours than the eight hours of construction earned my roommates, school then became just about enjoying myself to the maximum extent.  How hard could a sales job be?

I played my first ever show at Mother’s Junction in December of 1990 in front of about 11 disinterested people.  The load in was up a steep flight of stairs in what was probably the worst load-in across rock until The Smiling Moose in Pittsburgh stole the crown.  I didn’t know what I was doing then, but was really excited to play rock and roll on a real stage.  I still don’t know what I am doing and I still get excited by the way.  I would like to apologize to the people in attendance that night as I was horribly off key on a couple songs, this being well before we learned of the option of switching the key to one I could actually stay in.  The sheer amount of beer we drank helped shield me from the embarrassment.  I am still sheepish about it now though.

I used to go to the bar downstairs, Ray’s Place so often that when I went back into the place a full decade after being there last, the bartenders (who somehow never change) recognized me and slid a Bud longneck to me without me even placing an order.  While that was certainly a badge of honor in my twenties, I think it might be a cry for help now.  It was in that room many social catastrophes occurred including the time we dragged in a drunken buddy like a corpse and placed him for safe keeping passed out under the pinball machine.  I would go there with my friends after “pre-gaming” at our house and attempt to be charming.  In retrospect, knocking back a bottle of tequila and a case of beer with four guys was not a recipe for charm.  Once again, I apologize.

Across the street was The Pufferbelly, the only nice sit down restaurant to go to with your parents during a “Parents Weekend” visit.  I ate there once with my father who swung by on a pickup on our way to NYC for the holidays.  I don’t remember my mother ever visiting while I was in college until the day I graduated.  This is not an indication of her lack of interest, but more of a result of my asserting my independence and not allowing them to sniff around my domicile to see what I was up to.  I stand by that decision today.  There were many things going on that would have been uncomfortable to discuss for all of us.

If Ray’s wasn’t happening, there were two bars in the rotation in either direction.  The Venice Café was owned by an old no nonsense couple of some indeterminist immigrant origin.  They may have been the only establishment in NE Ohio to offer Duke, a crappy Pittsburgh cheap beer.  This was served in crummy 8 oz. glasses for .60 apiece.  It was the only beer available on draft.  Every single time I went in there I would ask for a Budweiser draft.  “No Bud. Duke.”  (said in the Belushi “hamburger hamburger hamburger” accent).  Oh, OK… Can I get a Miller Draft?  “No Miller.  Duke.”  Oh…  Do you have Molson?  “No.  Duke.  Only Duke.”  This would go on for five minutes every single time I walked in there.  He never showed more than his normal irritation.  He should have pistol whipped me.  I wish that guy was still running that bar.  I’d go in and ask for anything but a Duke.

In the other direction was The Loft.  The Loft was most noteworthy for having the worst men’s room in the three state area.  The rusty metal trough from the back corner men’s room had a sour reek that met you as soon as you stepped through the front door.  This was sort of a hillbilly version of Ray’s where the jukebox was always stuck in 1978.  It’s hard to believe that enough patrons wanted to hear .38 Special and Skynyrd to keep those artists as almost house bands in constant rotation.  I often ate pizza from the tiny area downstairs, which made the entire venue essentially a toilet that added a pizza oven.   

A small diner called Jerry’s was a block away, a real Kent landmark, that was later knocked down to make what I can only assume is a CVS Pharmacy location.  Any landmark of interest in the United States that has been knocked down has done so to make way for yet another CVS location.  They are a worse scourge than Wal Mart in many respects.  I used to go to Jerry’s after the bars had closed and drink pitchers of black coffee after a “garbage plate” of eggs/potatoes.  There were always lots of crazy people in there including a woman that liked to show squiggly ballpoint pen drawings from her notebook of what “chaos” looked like.  To tell you the kind of place it was, one time a customer asked the cook behind the grill for a saucer for his coffee.  The cook wiped his dirty apron and said in his loudest voice, “Get a load of this!  This guy wants a saucer at Jerry’s Diner!  Hahahahaha!”.  The man slunk out soon afterwards.

I might walk around a bit before the show.  I like the idea of watching the college students walking by me with a look of “what is he doing here?” as if I had walked into their home in a bathrobe.  They don’t know yet, but I know.  The present is very fragile.  You don’t own that town.  Only in your memory.


At December 10, 2014 at 10:16:00 PM EST , Blogger AZ said...

Visited many of those haunts on my various trips to meet some buddies who went there. Yep, similar memories that you can count on exactly like the inflatable CVS stores.


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